Q&A with Gerard Butler from Law Abiding Citizen
1. As a law student, did the script have a huge attraction to you from the very beginning?
Gerard Butler: Yeah it did, that was one of the initial attractions, obviously being involved with the law, and also realising that after having involvement with the law, I no longer wanted any involvement with it. Then coming across this idea which in some ways is a real inditement of the law or the way it can be administered.
That wasn’t the main reason I was interested in it, it was a great story, it’s as much climbing into the mind of a person who has been so wronged, everything in his life has changed in one moment, what must that be like and what lengths would you go to as a person to get revenge and answer back, I thought that was a far more compelling reason, for me anyway, cause that’s what would fascinate me as an audience member and as an actor.
2. This film also sees you as a first time Producer, can you talk about that?
GB: It was an interesting experience because I had never done it before, but there came a time that when you’re getting a lot more say in movies and what movies are going to be made, and people are making movies on your back, you think you want to be a little more involved, and get a credit for it. Initially, when we were in negotiations with the distribution company, sorry not the distribution company the finance company, they wanted us just to be the executive producers, but I said that was a deal breaker, we actually want to produce it and work on it, and my manager especially was there for months before production began, working on it everyday. For me it was two years of slowly but surely getting it, getting this thing going, working on the script and developing it. We went through another director and it was just a long journey.
3. You spent time with criminologists, what did you learn from that and what other research did you do for the role?
GB: So, there was one criminologist especially who had written a great paper on Serial Killers but especially Revenge Killers, he had gone into one the obsessive nature of this, and also the rewards and how someone who gets into it could get carried away by this in a very egotistical way, and enjoy hugely the power that they get from it and that cathartic experience because their whole life has become about this objective cause they have nothing left. That’s something that ties into my character cause he loses everything in that moment, so therefore he can take great enjoyment out of this plan he’s been carrying out for years.
4. It’s a very dark, black place and this bloke is a very bleak bloke, did you find it hard to shake him off after a days filming or even at the end of the project?
GB: Yeah, absolutely, I don’t think I was always in good space when we were filming this movie, one because of the character I was playing and what he was going through, but also cause I was trying to produce, I was acting in it, and playing this role that I hadn’t played before that was very dark.
There were a lot of issues while we were going through filming it, that in the end, part of the reason we made a great movie was there was so much discussion about making sure this story was fool proof, and every moment we were trying to be different, trying to keep the suspense in there, whilst in someway keeping it believable. So yeah, I noticed that a lot of the time while filming, I wasn’t in a great space, my stomach would be churning cause of the other stuff that was going on, but when I finished that was tough, that was literally three weeks to a month that I spent in a very funky place. I actually came back to Scotland after that and went away on my own a lot, climbed up a couple of hills, got a tent out and then went on to India.
5. As well as raising hell on set, we hear you and Jaime [Foxx] raised hell off set, so you have any stories you can share?
GB: Not raising hell, I don’t drink, on weekend we went out a couple of times, but I wouldn’t say we raised hell, I don’t think, we didn’t have any orgies, we went out to a club, I think he’s been asked the same question, and was like ‘not quite’.
6. How did you manage to get the tone of your character correct, he could’ve easily been a cardboard cut out villain?
GB: Well that’s why I wanted to take it on in the first place, in the initial draft he was a very two toned character, who went from this lovely, comfortable, suburban husband to this bitter, twisted, kind of annoying dick, and much as he does get into this plan, he does take enjoyment out of it. I just felt it could work on so many different levels, and first and foremost, he has a huge amount of humanity this guy, and to keep pulling it back to that, it felt to me that he’s just following his own truth, he didn’t ask for this to happen, it’s not something he would wish on his worse enemy at the start.
7. In the production notes, it says you were originally signed on to play Jaime Foxx’ character, what was the reason for the switch and are you happy with the outcome?
GB: Through developing this story, I was always going to play the Jaime Foxx character, the prosecutor and as time went on, the more I was seduced by the other role, I was thinking that it was something I had never played before and it would be quite fascinating for me to take on, I had often played the more heroic character with a more straight forward, subtle journey, and I wanted something that I could maybe get my teeth into a little more that I had never done before, I also wanted to get the movie made. We thought Jaime was most likely going to want to play the prosecutor. So when I was speaking to the rest of the team, do you think if I offered to play the other role he would still be interested, the second I said it there was a pause and `i was thinking I shouldn’t have said that cause he might say yes, and he did so i was kind of screwed. But in heinsight I don’t have any regrets, I’m glad we did it like that.
8. Now that your first movie as producer is finished, is this how you’re going to make movies now, or will you switch and do one as an actor and one in this duel role?
GB: I don’t know, the film that I did after this, the one I just did with Jennifer Aniston I wasn’t involved, I wasn’t producer on that, but we have a few different movies that we are developing that I would love to make and work on. I also have this DreamWorks movie coming out, so I definitely wasn’t producing on that, I wouldn’t say it’ll be one on and one off, I’m not adverse to doing it again and I’m sure I will be doing it again, and hopefully I would have learnt some serious lessons.
9. There are threads of ‘Death Wish’ and threads of ‘Dead Man Walking’ in the film, do you think they are important to the film or did you just want to make the film?
GB: I wanted it to be whatever it’s supposed to be to people, it felt like it had elements of ‘Film Noir’, it had elements of crime, just a crime thriller, it had elements of action and is definitely reminiscent of ‘Death Wish’ and I love that element of it and you think that’s all it’s going to be but it’s so much more than that. The whole part to me that’s surprising about this is, is just the shape of the film and where it ends up, there is a huge conceit of how my character is pulling off what he pulls off, which takes it to somewhere different again as to what the hell is happening, how is it happening and what’s going to happen next? Which I thought took it into a whole other area that made it pretty fresh.
10. What do you hope audiences take away from watching Law Abiding Citizen?
GB: I don’t think you have to be a philosopher about movies, if it can make you feel about any subject, I always like for any movies that I do to have some sort of message in them, and with this it’s an interesting analysis of the legal system, and how it can be abused of the rights that one has and more deeply or even more generally the frustrations that a person has, weather it’s to do with the legal system or their situation at work or with their family, that inability to speak out or that inability to represent yourself or be represented, that idea of the elevator falling down and to stand up and strike out, I think it’s a great meditation on that.
11. Do you empathise with your character?
GB: Yeah I do, I found myself in interviews where I actually knew what I was talking about, that I was getting very defensive of him and I have a lot of love for him, you know I spent a lot of time playing him and justifying who he was and I think you can’t help but imagine, you see these kinds of stories on the news, it’s a very powerful feeling that it invokes inside you, therefore it wasn’t so difficult for me to put myself in the place that the character was, and yeah I had a lot of sympathy, a lot of empathy for him.
12. What did you learn as a producer of how movies were made?
GB: It’s one thing that I’ve learned as an actor as well as a producer, is to trust my own instinct, I think when I fist started acting, I would have ideas about certain things, weather it be about a scene or a character or some dialog that wouldn’t be followed, and I was never in the position where I could press the matter, sometimes it wasn’t even about my character. I would watch the movie, and think, I was right, what they did was wrong in that situation and it would be very apparent. I’d have discussions to my agents about movies I was doing, when the movie came out they would say, you know that was a good point you had there. Then I noticed the more I became involved with developing the stories that I could have a huge amount of input into the story, especially with this movie, I had so much input in how the story turned out, and I think in the few areas where mistakes were made, they were the few times where I didn’t stand up for myself.